CDC to put tight restrictions on dogs traveling across the border


Barring some response from elected federal officials, the CDC will be implementing new rules about bringing dogs into the country by land, sea or air from anywhere in the world. This will include U.S. residents returning from travel to Canada and Mexico with their pooch in their car, boat or RV. It will also apply to non-U.S. citizens traveling to the U.S. to visit their cabins or for tourism.

Beginning August 1, bringing dogs into the U.S. will fall under new import rules that will require the dogs to be over 6 months old, be micro-chipped and carry a valid certificate showing the dog has been vaccinated for rabies, and have a completed CDC Dog Import Form. In lieu of a vaccination certificate, the owner must prove that the animal has been in a low- or no-risk country for six months before importation. No dogs under six months can enter the country.

Both Canada and Mexico are considered rabies-free by the CDC and have been for years. Previously, dogs under the age of six months were exempt from the requirement that they be inoculated for rabies (puppies can’t be given the vaccine before three months of age and it takes 28 days to reach full effectiveness).

According to the U.S. Federal Register, the “CDC removed the exemption for importers to import up to three dogs under six months of age at U.S. land borders if arriving from dog-maintained rabies virus variant (DMRVV)-free or DMRVV low-risk countries.”

The CDC originally proposed keeping that exemption to reduce the burden on U.S. travelers who frequently travel across the U.S.’s borders with Canada and Mexico, but removed it in order “to create a uniform standard for all dogs, ensure U.S.-land borders are not overwhelmed with dog importations, and reduce the risk of importers fraudulently claiming that their dog has not been in DMRVV high-risk country.”

According to the CDC, “the social cost of the consequences associated with the importation of a single DMRVV-infected dog is estimated to be $270,000 (range: $210,000 to $510,000) for conducting public health investigations and administering rabies PEP to exposed persons.”

In a response to a comment made during the rule-making process that the owner of a dog is not “importing” a dog when they cross the border, the CDC said dogs are considered goods and should be treated as imports like any other goods. In fact, most of the reasons for these new rules appear intended toward the commercial importation of dogs and not individual pet owners. There is no indication that the CDC considered the plight of border communities across the country nor special cases such as Point Roberts, the NW Angle or Hyder, Alaska, each of which require residents and visitors to travel through Canada to access the rest of the U.S. In 2022, 60 percent of Canadian households have one or more goods that either bark or meow. In all, Canadians have 7.9 million dogs and that number is growing.

How much of an actual problem is rabies? Well, if a human gets bitten by an animal carrying the virus and doesn’t seek help before symptoms appear, it is almost always fatal. How common is it for people in the U.S. to get rabies? Not common at all. According to the CDC, in the 58-year stretch from 1960 to 2018, there were just 127 cases for an average of 2.1 cases per year. One-quarter of those cases came from dog bites during international travel and about 70 percent were from a bat bite.

Caitlynn Paradis is a certified public accountant who lives in Chilliwack, B.C. and travels to the U.S. a minimum of three times per month for shopping, veterinary visits and to attend dog shows. She wrote to mayors of cities along the border including Blaine, Sumas, Lynden and Ferndale warning them of the upcoming rules.

“Is there anything that can be done?” she asked. “This is only going to harm the economy of those in border towns especially when most of them are still recovering from the border shutdowns during the pandemic.”

U.S. senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray and U.S. representative Rick Larsen were contacted by The Northern Light on May 14 seeking comment on the rules. Both senator offices responded they were looking into the issue; no response was received by press time from Larsen’s office.


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  • Geoff2024

    Thank you for this warning story. Here in Washington State and British Columbia there must be a lot of dogs that cross the border many times a year with their owners, whether visiting family, or going to second homes or recreational destinations on both sides of the border.

    Particularly burdensome for Canadians wth dogs vaccinated for rabies in Canada is the proposed requirement that the certification of vaccination and an examination by a vet (saying the dog is healthy) cannot be more than 30 days old at the time of entry. For families with weekend and recreational properties that cross the border often this will be a logistical burden and a significant cost - potentially a monthly visit to the vet for the exam and certificate.

    Reading the statistics - only one case of rabies on average every two years in the United States due to dog bite, and no statistic showing the origin of the dogs concerned were from outside the United States (rabies has domestic reservoirs in many species of wild animals transmissible to dogs), one has to wonder why the CDC would impose such onerous protections where almost no risk appears to exist from dogs that have been vaccinated within Canada and the United States.

    The burden on Customs and Border Protection, the paperwork, the expense, and the advance planning required will be a particular burden on many families who do not travel without their four-legged family members in tow. There must be many thousands of frequent border crossers who will be affected - and against what risk?

    Tuesday, May 21 Report this